I’ve lived in this part of West London for around ten years now. And, I must have walked past the discreet frontage of Taiwan village for years before I decided to try the place. The catalyst for me was an extremely busy exhibition at Earls Court coinciding with a Chelsea match at home on a day when I REALLY wanted to eat out. And what a great place to find on your doorstep.
In some ways it’s not suprising – the restaurant is almost on the corner of Lillie Road and the North End Road – the grubby end of Fulham. But, inside it’s a tranquil haven, with immaculate table linen, fabulous wood carvings and a good mix of larger tables for groups and little niches where you can tuck yourself away for a quiet meal with a friend. I’ve got to know the staff there quite well, it’s a favourite with all my family, indeed with every guest I’ve taken there. And, I’ve felt a bit bad for not writing a review sooner.
There’s a fairly extensive menu of Hunan, Szechuan and Taiwanese specialities, but much the easiest way to experience the restaurant at it’s best and, in my opinion most fun, option is to pick the Chef’s ‘leave it to us’ menu…a kind of tasting menu. You do get the option of hot or medium spicy – and of meat or pescatarian. After that, you are in the chef’s hands, although as a ‘regular’ there are certain things you will almost always get served if you DO pick the chef’s menu.
We started the evening with a spicy soup with a pork dumpling garnished with coriander. It’s something I’ve had on a number of occasions at Taiwan Village and always enjoyed! Next an assortment of appetisers. A tender, sticky dish of spare-ribs, spicy beans in a tempura type of batter, nest of imperial jewels ( chopped prawns with mustard greens, served in an iceberg lettuce leaf), a scallop each, perfectly cooked in a light batter and served with a spicy stirfry and sesame prawn toasts. All washed down with a lot of jasmine tea. I’ve tried to get the staff to explain how the ribs are made. You can eat the entire thing, including the bone…and the flavour is quite unique. All they will tell me is that it takes LONG SLOW COOKING in the oven!
We took a five minute break!
Next, a traditional crispy duck. The Taiwan Village version is quite dry and spicy so you don’t end up feeling over full…despite a generous portion size (I would guess a half duck between two)
And then main courses!
A smallish bowl of steamed rice to accompany five plates of food. Now, one small problem here, there’s no printed menu explaining the dishes because they DO vary on each occasion…so, this is my best explanation of the range we were given. The photo above is of the dry spicy pork dish we enjoyed – flakes of spiced meat with a deep rich flavour. Below, juicy prawns in a Szechuan style sauce
Clams with chilli, ginger, lemon grass and coriander were tiny morsels of fish in a hot sour sauce contrasting with a sweet and sticky chicken dish and lamb cooked in a hot and tangy sauce. Each dish was just a couple of mouthfuls for both of us…and as my companion said, left you feeling satisfied but not over full.
Taiwan Village is a real local treasure. There’s a fabulous picture of the manageress with Gordon Ramsey hugging her hanging over the bar. The food is fresh, tasty and varied and service is charming, if slightly hesitant at time because no one speaks perfect English!
If you are not from round here, make a detour and try it. The Chef’s feast costs around £26 per person or you can chose from an extensive menu of Hunan, Sezchuan and Taiwanese specialities. Wine starts at under £15 a bottle but there’s a good range of mid-priced options too.
85 Lillie Road
London SW6 1UD